News

Homecoming Star Julia Roberts Wants To Be Sam Esmail's 'Mrs. Robot'

The actress and director discuss playing with memory, paying homage to Alfred Hitchcock, butt shots, and what's next for them on TV and beyond.

by | October 31, 2018 | Comments

Photo Credit: Jessica Brooks

(Photo by Jessica Brooks)

New Amazon prestige drama Homecoming — now Certified Fresh at 96% — was designed to binge, according to Sam Esmail and Julia Roberts. Their proof? All the episodes hover around a half-hour each.

“Especially when you’re doing a show with a lot of suspense, the thing that you have to modulate is how to incrementally ask the audience to lean in without giving away too much,” Esmail explained when Rotten Tomatoes met with the series creator and his star to chat about the podcast–turned–TV series. “It’s a tightrope and the half-hour format just lends to that. There’s a lingering effect at the end of every episode. It doesn’t blow your mind with a cliffhanger, we don’t give out every answer, but it just gets you to prop up a little bit and sit up. I think if we tried to drag it out in hour-long episodes, we would just be treading water. The podcast did it so well, and I didn’t see any need to change that when we made the TV show.”

The scripted podcast of the same name, created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, featured Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer, and other top-tier talent in the same story as the series: Heidi (played by Roberts in the series) is a caseworker at an experimental facility that hosts a program for returning soldiers to re-assimilate to civilian life. Years later, when a Department of Defense auditor begins looking into why she left the facility, Heidi realizes that there is more to her story than what she’s been telling herself. Stephan James, Bobby Cannavale, Sissy Spacek, and Shea Whigham star alongside Roberts in the Amazon show.

Below, Esmail and Roberts discuss how the series plays with memory, paying homage to classic thrillers, doing more television, and whether Roberts could pop up in the final season of Mr. Robot — as Mrs. Robot, perhaps?


Photo Credit: Hilary B. Gayle

(Photo by Hilary B. Gayle)

Rotten Tomatoes: How much did you turn to the podcast while you were making the series?

Julia Roberts: It was my jumping-off point. It was my introduction to it, and I loved it. I love Catherine Keener. But from that point it became this new world, this new universe [with a] brand-new captain. It was our inspiration, but it was kind of liberating that we didn’t have to be beholden to duplicating, replicating what Eli and Micah had created for the podcast.

Sam Esmail: We intentionally, I think, from the bottom up, tried to create a different experience for the audience. We deviate a lot from the [podcast] story line. It’s an intentional decision not to cast any of the same people. It was just meant to have its own existence, so that way audiences could enjoy the podcast, which is great on its own, and then come into different experience with the show.

RT: How do you describe the show?

Roberts: I think I can do genre, that’s about as far as I can go. For me it’s a suspense, thriller, terrorizing, paranoid, love story.

Esmail: It’s a throwback to classic thrillers, and that love story aspect is typically in all those Hitchcockian thrillers. That’s the beating pulse underneath all the mystery and suspense. One of the reasons I think we were fans of the podcast is that it felt like this old yarn, and it wasn’t about set pieces or action sequences; it was just about people trying to connect.

Roberts: There’s no filler.

Esmail: There’s no filler, yeah. It’s very succinct.

Roberts: I’ve been wanting to watch Three Days of the Condor suddenly.

Esmail: Wow, that’s such a great movie.

Roberts: Such a good movie.



RT: The show does have a throwback feel. What else can you say about the homages to Hitchcock and other classic thrillers?

Esmail: One thing that I did with the music is we didn’t hire a composer. I intentionally wanted to just license the scores of all these great, classic thrillers. Everyone from Pakula, De Palma, Hitchcock, Kubrick, and specifically Three Days of the Condor was used. There was music from that used in the scene in the Chinese restaurant in episode six when [to Roberts] you were giving your beautiful monologue. The music was there because it felt right. The tone of this was meant to a link to these character-based thrillers that you don’t really see anymore.

RT: What were you able to do in this show that you haven’t been able to do before?

Roberts: Aerobics, the StairMaster! Running around. [A set of stairs in Roberts’ character’s office is a key location.] I mean honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to perform things in real time. There is no, “Oh, just stand up here, and we’ll just cut to driving away in your car, you don’t have to deal with those pesky hallways and staircases and getting all your stuff together and finding your keys, and doing all this stuff.” This was all very much the real talking at your desk, realizing what time it is, collecting all your stuff together, still talking on the phone, trying to act natural, getting out of work, finding your keys, going down the stairs, getting out the front, walking to your car. I mean, it’s a lot of stuff, and it just makes it so real, so convincing. It just seems all very accurate and that’s what [Esmail] wants all the time, from everybody. It’s inspiring and it’s a little exhausting. It’s just a whole lot of great stuff to shape your characters around.

Esmail: My answer is going to be a little different because —

Roberts: — because you’re smarter than me!

Esmail: No, because there is only one Julia Roberts, and I can ask her to do all the things she just described and then give notes in between takes, and I don’t have to parse up my notes that I generally have to do with other people. I can give her a bunch of notes to do on top of that, and she will not only do everything, but then just top it off with something I didn’t even imagine or think of. That’s the new experience — the fact that I had Julia Roberts.


Photo Credit: Amazon

(Photo by Amazon)

RT: The series plays with memory and gaslighting and what you can believe and trust at any given moment. How do you keep straight which version of your character you’re playing and what she knows at that point in time?

Roberts: It takes a village. Any kind of acting award, they give one statue to one person and you just want to laugh and go, “You think I did this all by myself? You’ve got another thing coming.” [Sam is] my greatest guide, obviously, at all times, for the tone, the content, all of it. But then, just all the facts of the matter: “What time of the day is it?” “What happened yesterday in this scenario and what does she know and not know?” I have Sam, I have the script supervisor. There are so many people that are there. Eli and Micah were there all the time just adding in pieces of information that would really expand my ability to embrace each individual moment, the little tiny things. All the stuff got very, very, very cool for me as a performer, because usually it’s like, “I just want the facts, don’t tell me too much I want to do this myself,” and I just wanted everybody in the pool with me on this one.

Esmail: We just took it one day at a time. Julia asked for this, and this is something I did on Mr. Robot: to get all the scripts written beforehand. Imagine trying to do that on the week to week without knowing where you’re going.

Roberts: We would have been put into a hospital.

Esmail: The fact that we had them all written and the fact that every day, in the morning, we could rehearse, we could reorient ourselves and say, “Here’s what’s happening today and here’s where Heidi is,” that was really helpful.


Homecoming season 1 - Julia Roberts and Sam Esmail (Hilary B Gayle/SMPSP)

RT: What’s next? Will either of you do more TV? What are you working on?

Esmail: I’m working on the final season of Mr. Robot.

Roberts: I’m a little tired of hearing about Mr. Robot. Unless there’s a Mrs. Robot out there.

RT: Hello, final season!

Roberts: Rami [Malek] and I are very good friends.

Esmail: You two are making a very good point here.

Roberts: You never know, things might get super interesting. You know, I’m not interested in TV or movies, specifically — I just want good stories. This was such a great story. I felt like I got to play two different characters. I had a playground of castmates to do these scenes with who I just adored. It was near-perfect experience, so do I want to have more of that? Yeah. If that’s TV, OK.

RT: That’s a sentiment we’ve been hearing a lot of lately, which seems like a testament to the interesting things that you can do on TV.

Roberts: Yeah. And I hear you can show your butt on TV. Looking forward to that.

Homecoming season 1 premieres on Friday, November 2 on Amazon Prime Video.


Tag Cloud

festival Crunchyroll cults cars rt labs critics edition CBS 73rd Emmy Awards Nickelodeon cancelled TV series indiana jones Lifetime OneApp Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt crossover hist PBS docuseries Calendar First Reviews History award winner Tubi Sci-Fi historical drama Elton John women Logo comic books Disney Plus diversity Nominations olympics New York Comic Con Teen satire japanese Musical Musicals video on demand SXSW zero dark thirty live action justice league Amazon X-Men Action festivals Polls and Games news Mary Poppins Returns true crime films scorecard rt archives worst movies scene in color Christmas comic book movie TV One twilight Trophy Talk streaming psycho sequel IFC Films adaptation The Arrangement japan AMC 45 blockbusters Brie Larson Winners Marvel USA LGBT Hear Us Out Food Network technology jurassic park mockumentary DC Comics cancelled TV shows Film political drama Ellie Kemper The Purge Emmys all-time Exclusive Video Hallmark scary movies Television Academy Sneak Peek comiccon south america TCA Awards A24 21st Century Fox dc Television Critics Association social media crime thriller adenture new star wars movies aapi children's TV reviews telelvision serial killer IFC DGA 90s elevated horror chucky dark series Britbox cancelled Broadway El Rey new york CW Seed DC Universe reboot Reality Competition TV movies sequels USA Network witnail 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Fox News jamie lee curtis Comedy Paramount Network concert know your critic revenge golden globe awards Star Wars best VICE lord of the rings HBO comics royal family BBC Crackle nfl tv talk theme song LGBTQ NBA 2017 italian Drama wonder woman medical drama Premiere Dates game show Apple TV+ YouTube Photos Disney+ Disney Plus criterion ID Turner Classic Movies comedies fresh movie science fiction nbcuniversal 2021 Year in Review DC streaming service composers SDCC Arrowverse romantic comedy king kong boxoffice monster movies natural history pirates of the caribbean Comic Book legend Grammys football Best and Worst indie Universal parents 4/20 Kids & Family kong Cartoon Network archives 2018 classics Spectrum Originals Endgame Cannes joker Comedy Central Lucasfilm Sundance Now green book Red Carpet spain 2016 godzilla docudrama Music Black Mirror Tumblr Shudder rom-coms Pirates werewolf 24 frames NYCC Lionsgate WarnerMedia talk show Marathons Legendary Fantasy anime supernatural canceled CBS All Access Tarantino stoner Western Pet Sematary HBO Max Awards documentary war Disney kaiju Biopics Mary Tyler Moore Pacific Islander Epix VOD aliens The Walking Dead dogs Academy Awards teaser black slashers TCA Winter 2020 christmas movies Paramount free movies popular strong female leads Amazon Prime singing competition casting dragons cinemax a nightmare on elm street quibi Captain marvel king arthur Nat Geo Baby Yoda remakes Wes Anderson 20th Century Fox BBC One Pride Month FX on Hulu franchise Pixar ITV Apple TV Plus CNN nature TIFF Travel Channel RT History child's play comic Tomatazos Heroines book crime drama Quiz MSNBC BBC America Country cancelled television Ghostbusters game of thrones RT21 VH1 halloween Certified Fresh TLC Election hollywood FXX documentaries Trivia cartoon NBC Avengers richard e. Grant Masterpiece Classic Film Superheroe adventure thriller TV Land Schedule Set visit disaster superman GoT stop motion screenings Black History Month E3 discovery Turner OWN book adaptation Countdown Marvel Television 2019 binge The Walt Disney Company YA biography movies Showtime Family Video Games The Witch rt labs Summer TruTV trailers comic book movies laika biopic universal monsters Animation doctor who Netflix Christmas movies TCA 2017 Fox Searchlight Lifetime Christmas movies debate critics batman 99% President dexter PlayStation breaking bad National Geographic HBO Go Adult Swim facebook rotten movies we love Sundance TV screen actors guild heist movie Film Festival blockbuster Extras zombie australia Vudu Warner Bros. based on movie The CW Winter TV Rocky unscripted CMT animated Toys Star Trek FOX Holidays asian-american Rocketman worst A&E video Hulu saw Disney streaming service GLAAD See It Skip It BET hispanic YouTube Premium Funimation slasher mutant 93rd Oscars golden globes renewed TV shows APB robots Marvel Studios SundanceTV TCM Spring TV emmy awards Podcast WGN Chernobyl sag awards foreign Chilling Adventures of Sabrina obituary Mary poppins what to watch mcc Mindy Kaling MCU Super Bowl Dark Horse Comics Valentine's Day spider-man Tokyo Olympics latino die hard Disney Channel directors ViacomCBS Sony Pictures james bond Esquire police drama marvel comics streaming movies spanish language Syfy Song of Ice and Fire Character Guide spanish E! Shondaland Comic-Con@Home 2021 finale sitcom TV Reality rotten space razzies Peacock television Amazon Studios Oscars Mystery critic resources cooking dramedy toronto Mudbound Starz Thanksgiving Creative Arts Emmys Freeform PaleyFest TNT 2020 San Diego Comic-Con First Look 1990s stand-up comedy Binge Guide Stephen King ABC Signature anthology 71st Emmy Awards Sundance YouTube Red The Academy hidden camera kids dceu spinoff new zealand independent ghosts Hallmark Christmas movies BAFTA Rock basketball prank Anna Paquin Rom-Com cops cats versus action-comedy toy story BET Awards mission: impossible Apple gangster ABC Family canceled TV shows Alien marvel cinematic universe FX Cosplay 007 2015 TCA Women's History Month posters french spy thriller harry potter Awards Tour ratings Netflix Spike Opinion TBS hispanic heritage month suspense Amazon Prime Video romance feel good 72 Emmy Awards fast and furious deadpool Infographic halloween tv Martial Arts Discovery Channel TV renewals zombies ABC name the review vampires blaxploitation ESPN MTV Superheroes Bravo American Society of Cinematographers Pop TV crime politics miniseries boxing young adult psychological thriller superhero Paramount Plus Watching Series high school GIFs period drama Columbia Pictures Holiday Emmy Nominations sports Comics on TV Box Office DirecTV international Image Comics Pop Fall TV Interview Writers Guild of America Walt Disney Pictures target travel Trailer transformers Horror Acorn TV venice Ovation